The goal of this seven-part series of Mindfulness and Calmness is to bring more calm, clarity, and joy into your life. This is part one of that series, the “Basics of Mindfulness.”
Maybe you're looking for a way to lessen the stress and anxiety in your daily life. Perhaps you’d like to improve your health and enjoy a more restful sleep.
For many of us, these goals are difficult to attain because we're experiencing more stress and anxiety than ever before due to the daily pressure to succeed and we’re critical of ourselves when we don’t succeed in something.
We rush around in the “daily grind” of life and then at the end of the day, we fall into bed exhausted and stressed about what we still have on our plate while looking forward to the weekend.
When the weekend does finally arrive, we spend our time racing the clock. Stressed about what we didn’t achieve or what's next on our plate.
This common day-to-day overwhelm is why millions of people have flocked to mindfulness. Including business leaders, sports teams, and college students. This amazing process provides us with the ability to wake up, pay attention and become present so we can get the most out of our lives.
It can teach us all sorts of new things. Such as how to more calmly respond to situations and recognize unhealthy habits. It also helps us become more tolerant, less judgemental and kinder to others around us. As Gandhi once said, be the change you want to see in the world.
Mindfulness helps us become more tolerant, less judgemental and kinder to others around us.
A 2011 Harvard study on mindfulness showed that participating in mindfulness meditation program made measurable changes in the brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. So, the question is how do we start practicing it?
The best way to understand and develop mindfulness is through meditation.
It’s a universal practice and has nothing to do with organized religion or dogma of any kind. Anyone can do it, at anytime and in anyplace.
To get started with mindfulness meditation, it’s best to begin with a breathing meditation to concentrate the mind.
Take just 8 minutes out of your day to sit, put in your headphones to listen to calming music or nature sounds. It’s amazing what those daily 8 minutes of calm can do for your life.
Just 8 minutes of calm to change your life.
First, find a quiet place to sit where no one will disturb you. Sit with a straight back on a cushion or chair in a position that feels comfortable and close your eyes.
Rest your hands gently on your knees or cup them softly in your lap. Keep your upper body straight and tall like a mountain but allow your chest to be soft. Let there be a soft smile in the corner of your lips and bring your attention to the tip of your tongue, letting it fall relaxed.
Let your body rest easily and breathe gently. As you allow your body to be still, become aware of your breath as it comes into your body and as it leaves your body.
Focus on the rise of your belly on the inhale and its fall on the exhale.
If you find it easier to focus on the breath as it enters your nose or diaphragm that's fine as well. Pay attention to wherever the breath feel strongest and it's easiest to follow.
Keep the rhythm of your breathing natural, not trying to change it in any way, just being aware of it.
If you need help steadying your mind, you can try counting rhythmically counting. “One” on the in breath and “two” on the out breath.
Now, stay with the breath for a moment and observe it without anticipating it. Let it go naturally and effortlessly.
You'll find from time to time your mind will wander off into worries distractions or thoughts of the past or future.
When you notice you're no longer focused on your breathing, without holding any judgment against yourself, gently bring your focus back to the present. Allow your thoughts to appear then let them float away like clouds crossing the sky, just keep returning to the breath over and over. Breathing in and out naturally.
As your mind wanders, don't judge yourself, just notice it's happened and gently guide your mind back to the present.
It’s common to find sitting in stillness difficult at first due to our constant inner chatter. Your mind will want to think about all kinds of things. Things you have to do in the day ahead or perhaps you’re feeling bored or excited. You might wonder if you're any good at this.
Don't worry when these distracting thoughts occur. The mind loves to keep busy. This is just its nature.
Once you learn how to tame your mind, practice becomes easier. Just remember to continue breathing in and out.
As you come to the end of your eight minutes of peace and quiet, keep your eyes closed and gently wiggle your fingers and toes and bring your attention back to the room.
Take note of how your mind and body feel.
You'll find as you continue mindfulness practice, this state of still awareness will become more accessible to you. Similar to exercise, which requires regularity, mindfulness takes practice.
Mindfulness always becomes more accessible with practice.
It's not enough to just read about it or think about it, you actually have to apply it in order for it to work for you.
The longer you stick with mindfulness meditation, the better your life will be.
Set a daily goal or reminder on your phone or calendar to set aside the simple eight minutes of calm and peace.
While it might seem hard to commit to the daily practice, just try it. You will actually begin to look forward to those sacred eight minutes every day.
In our next section on mindfulness, We will introduce a meditation breathing technique called “noting” to help bring our minds back to the Here and Now.
I hope you have a great day. :)